Blood of Ambrose by James Enge

Rating 8.3/10
A truly rich story, incorporating Arthurian legend and classic sword and sorcery.

Behind the king's life stands the menacing Protector, and beyond him lies the Protector's Shadow...Centuries after the death of Uthar the Great, the throne of the Ontilian Empire lies vacant. The late emperor's brother-in-law and murderer, Lord Urdhven, appoints himself Protector to his nephew, young King Lathmar VII and sets out to kill anyone who stands between himself and mastery of the empire, including (if he can manage it) the king himself and his ancient but still formidable ancestress, Ambrosia Viviana. When Ambrosia is accused of witchcraft and put to trial by combat, she is forced to play her trump card and call on her brother, Morlock Ambrosius - stateless person, master of all magical makers, deadly swordsman, and hopeless drunk. As ministers of the king, they carry on the battle, magical and mundane, against the Protector and his shadowy patron. But all their struggles will be wasted unless the young king finds the strength to rule in his own right and his own name.

Sometime last year I read the third book in the Morlock Ambrosius series named “The Wolf Age”, and during the reading of it and afterwards I had this lingering feeling in the back of my mind that I really wanted to find out more about this interesting character of Morlock Ambrosius. I first thought that I was reading a third book in the series but soon found out that it was a stand-alone featuring the hero. There were a lot of aspects present in that book about Morlock’s past that kept me interested. Like how he became a maker, what it actually implies and what is Tyrfing? Now having finished Blood of Ambrose I learned a lot more about his character, and like “The Wolf Age” Blood of Ambrose also has its own story to tell and is from start to finish and well-rounded, intricate story.

This book throws you more or less directly into an bloody action scene. From what I could read and make out from the synopsis I could pretty much read in the first chapters of the Blood of Ambrose. Directly you have an action scene with the Protector Lord Urdvhen slaughtering the Emperor’s family, and forcing into action a trial-by-combat for Ambrosia Viviana, Morlock’s sister. It is by this trial that Morlock is called in to action and the trial that follows it chockfull of swords and sorcery. I found that this rapid pace in the beginning of the book was both to my pleasure but also produced after this trial a bit of a halt in the book, and it took me some time to get back into the pace of the more sedated story that followed. But nonetheless interesting though, having the story take a more sedated pace and using it to show much more of the surrounding added quite a new level to it. This style was somewhat familiar with “The Wolf Age”, where you had a lot of fighting interchanged by displaying an intricate society and woven story around it. And this style is kept at a constant. So looking at the overall story, the rapid picking up and displaying of what happened did produce a longing feeling for me to finish this book at a go, because on some level I did not know what might happen to our heroes of the story, whether they had the upper hand or that they could easily be defeated.

As for the main protagonist, Morlock, having had the chance to evaluate him a bit more in this story I must say that his personality definitely adds a “whole” feeling to the story. He is pretty much in the lead, knows what he does (even when drunk and killing a golem), but on another take he is also icily calm, reserved and knows when to and how to make a move. I did find that Morlock’s character was changing; going from a somewhat selfish man to a more caring type in the end. After his introduction to save Ambrosia, the story takes several neatly woven turns, focussing not only on Lathmar’s, the boy-king’s part of the story, but also displaying an element of family affairs. All three, Ambrosia, Lathmar and Morlock, are related to each other and it is due to this that the story again takes a very interesting turn. James Enge even goes as far as introducing Merlin into the story of Morlock and Ambrosia and that the forces of evil are actually a lot more powerful than they might seem on a first take. I have already mentioned Lathmar VII but I do want to elaborate on him a bit more… Being the future King of the Two Cities he is truly boyish is his doings, but later he is making tremendous leaps in character growth; an element that I really liked. The story does spans a time flow of a few months and mainly due to Ambrosia’s and Morlock’s influences he is truly a King in the end.

Next to the depth given to the characters in Blood of Ambrose there is also a lot of time invested in showing the different storylines. Coming from many different characters, along the story each character encounters his or her own problems and has to deal with them; and not only for Morlock, Ambrosia and Lathmar but also for the “evil” side of the story like Urdvhen and the poisoner Steng. It is by these explanations and different viewpoints that James Enge adds a level of richness to it, from the hidden stairways in Castle Ambrose to the Dragon that Morlock made and much much more…

The Blood of Ambrose is a truly rich story, incorporating nicely an Arthurian legend theme and showing some nice displays of classic Sword and Sorcery novel with a great main protagonist, but not solely focussing on the heroics of Morlock alone however. Taken on the whole there is a great level of detail towards not only the surrounding but also the intricate character relations of the Ambrosii. This is a book for everyone who favours a well calculated and plotted story.

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